Why Ron Livingston didn't sue Wikipedia

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Why Ron Livingston didn't sue Wikipedia

Mon Dec 07, 2009 @ 11:45AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Livingston Actor Ron Livingston and his lawyer may be in the process of showing others how to fight anonymous Internet pranksters.

On Friday, the actor best known for "Office Space" filed this lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. At issue is an anonymous individual who keeps changing Livingston's Wikipedia profile and creating Facebook pages to create the appearance he's in a gay relationship. Livingston is alleging that his unidentified troublemaker committed "despicable acts," including libel, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of name and likeness.

One might wonder why Livingston isn't suing Wikipedia. 

Here's the problem: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives broad protections to web hosts on libel claims by stating, "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

We figure that Livingston's lawyers at Santa Monica's Kinsella Weitzman firm realize that battling Wikipedia directly wouldn't be the best strategy.

We're guessing that Livingston will next attempt to subpoena Wikipedia and Facebook for the identification of the user, followed by a request for an injunction against the user from making further updates. 

This might be the best legal recourse available for Livingston — and anybody targeted by anonymous defamation on the web. Unfortunately, the litigation is going to come at a price. The litigation is now part of Livingston's official legacy—and is, of course, fair game for his Wikipedia page.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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